Spent some of the afternoon at the Cleveland Museum of Art, most of it sitting by the pond, called Wade Lagoon, which lies at the bottom of a long cascade of stone steps spilling from the museum’s southern door. Cleveland naysayers have never been to this museum, I’m certain. It holds some of my favorite paintings, including Cupid and Psyche by Jacques Louis David and Yosemite Valley by Albert Bierstadt and Gray and Gold by John Roberts Cox.
At the pond, people take pictures of Canada geese and a few straggly mallard ducks. I sit on a bench beneath a weeping willow, watching fish bob against the water’s surface then disappear into the green. In spring, the cherry trees lining the pond color the reflection pink, but in the early fall they just look like anonymous trees. I’m sure the geese must like the cherries' fruit, if any drops to the ground. Today, a family with a baby in a stroller feed the geese Doritos, which I suppose the geese like just as well as cherries. A little boy throws pebbles at one of the ducks, hoping to trick her into thinking it’s food. It’s not, and she paddles my way, trying her luck. I‘ve got nothing for her.
I climb the stairs up to the museum’s south entrance, which isn't the main entrance, but instead simply a set of doors along the vast white marble exterior of the original neoclassical 1916 building. The museum is free, so it can have more than one door, which is part of its appeal. No hand stamp, no button for your jacket, no wristband. Come inside and look at Yosemite Valley. Go back outside, where Rodin’s The Thinker gazes down the stairs. His lower legs are blown away, the metal peeled back, scars from a bombing in 1970. I haven’t any idea why anyone would bomb The Thinker—no one was ever charged with the crime—and he, too, seems to be trying to figure it out, fist to chin, head staring the rest of us down.
There’s something reassuring about visiting and revisiting paintings. Cupid will always be rising from bed with Psyche, smirking, young and bold. Yosemite will always be primeval, enveloped in cloud-filtered sun streaks, trees unburned, with whomever that is in foreground gazing away. We will never be at the crossroads in the heart of the storm.
I’m not sure, though, what The Thinker would have to say about permanence, though he is still there, years later, considering.